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Old 06-02-2010, 07:47 PM
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Von Helman Von Helman is offline
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Default Primitive Sod / adobe shelter construction - Heavy pictures - step by step instructi



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Written by Von Helman

Shelter is a critical part of survival in any situation, and since the beginning of time man has adapted to his environment and has survived by constructing shelters to provide protection from the elements.

Man has an automatically ingrained survival instinct which causes him to construct shelters, and this is no different than other animals that build nests, hollows, dens or other such shelters for their offspring and to protect themselves while ensuring their own species survival.

Perched atop of the species pyramid and blessed with both a mental capacity and ability to execute ideas; over time man has gone from dwelling in caves to creating simple lean to huts, all the way to magnificent architectural structures that today sometimes even appear to defy gravity while pushing the envelope of engineering specifications up to the sky and beyond.

Although aware of mans capabilities in regards to construction in a basic survival situation these incredible feats of engineering will simply be relegated to history, while simple survival structures of the past will once again come to the forefront of mans survival in any extreme rural survival situation.

Although shelters are themselves regional in their design and construction such as igloos to Eskimos or a thatched straw hut out on the Serengeti, shelters have always been important to man.

In an extreme survival situation where there is no money or available building materials to construct a shelter most people are clueless as to how to construct a sod home.

Therefore being that the largest percentage of land anywhere in the world is prone to sod (adobe) construction, and since sod homes only require a few basic ingredients and the heat from the sun to bake the blocks this article will discuss sod home construction.

When the Wild West was being settled through the Great Plains there were only two types of structures that were prevalent in the very beginning and these were tents and sod (Adobe) earthen homes. Tents were used for their portability while sod homes were permanent to those who settled the land.

In the early frontier days sod homes were designed and referred to a dugout as they were often buried half way into the ground. This was to help insulate them from the cold of winter and the heat of summer.

The shortage of building materials and finances were the determining factor in sod construction during that time period and geographical location of the open plains. When the railroads came through and were able to ship wood and other building supplies in mass quantities was when sod homes fell out of favor. This was simply because the availability of these new building materials which facilitated faster progress and a more refined look.





For argument sake we are going to go to the far end of extremes here and consider that a total societal collapse has occurred, there are no building supplies, vehicles, fuel available and you find yourself in a more rural area with nothing but scavenged items and a pack animal. The most important tool or item you can have is a pack animal. Whether this is a horse or mule having an animal to pull a cart or carry weight will be your saving grace.

Since cars will be rendered almost useless striping them of useful parts can provide you with the foundation for a cart. Here is an example of a cart constructed from the used axel and springs of a car while utilizing wood slats and poles for the deck and frame. Although very “third-world” in appearance this cart is very efficient and practical. Notice it’s also capable of carrying a fully loaded 55-gallon drum as seen in this image which is used to transport another vital resource, water.





To pull this handy homemade cart you need a motor, and without fuel this is where the pack animal comes in handy. Here is the small pack animal used to transport this handy cart.



Notice this pack animal purposely doesn’t have a fancy saddle or rigging, rather a simple blanket, some rope, wire, and homemade harness with a seat all cleverly crafted without having to spend any money.

Here is a horse that can be also used and again in place of a fancy saddle we see a nice thick hand stitched pillow. Also notice the seat belt which was removed from a car provides a great strap to secure the pillow in place. Seat belts from abandoned cars provide a great source of strong straps that can be used for multiple purposes and in most cases you can get them free.





When making adobe blocks the ingredients are solid hardened soil, dried manure, straw / hay, water and a hot sun. The tools needed are a way to transport water, a shovel, a brick frame, and a wheel barrel if you have one.

Making it easier on yourself find a spot where digging a hole or the earth is already dug out or alongside an earthen side of a hill, dyke or creek bed where you can find solid hard packed soil. The soil must be hard dried packed soil opposed to lose fresh dirt.

Using your cart you will need to have a dump of dried manure to add into the mixture. Not only can your pack animal pull the cart but will prove to be a valuable source of manure for a vast variety of uses including for these sod / adobe blocks or even fertilizing a garden.

Here is the pile of dried manure unloaded top side of the work area. This allows an easy way to add manure into the mix by allowing it to simply fall in place as needed.



Notice the pit where the soil is being excavated from the side walls and the raw floor of the pit where the soil, manure, hay, and water are mixed together to form the mud mixture.

If you also notice in this next picture of the cart, it is positioned above the hole and using a hose the water can be drained into the pit into a bucket simply by taking advantage of gravity. The white bags in the background which are in the pit contain hay and were also transported by the mule to this location.



Inside the pit simple mix the raw soil, manure and hay together adding just enough water until you get clay like consistency which should look like this




Using a wood bock frame like the one picture here,
you simply add the clay mix and begin to pack it in.

Begin using your foot and pack it into the frame as tightly as possible getting as many of the air bubbles and voids out as possible.



Then once this is done use your hands and smooth the top while adding more water to finish the top of the block in a finish as seen here.



In this next image you can just barely make out the divider that divides this frame into two sections. Using a frame not only make it easier for making the blocks but allows them to be constant in size which then makes it easier to stack, transport, and assemble later. You can also see in this image the number of completed blocks that are fresher near the bottom of the picture but more dried at the top.



Then after one two you turn them upright so they can evenly bake.



Once they have baked for 14 days they become solid and super hard thus allowing the blocks to be stacked on top of each other.



Again everything up to this moment hasn’t required any money; only a few hard days worth of work. These blocks take about three weeks to completely bake dry before they can be transported and used.

Now using rocks and the same type of earthen mixture for your grout begin constructing a foundation for your wall that is the width of the blocks and make it as level as possible as seen in this next image.





Then begin stacking the adobe blocks on each other going upward using the same mud mixture as your grout. Finish the roof using either wood, bricks, or even create a dome roof made of Adobe and you have a very strong insulated structure.

Using another earthen mud mix you can add a stucco type finish to the exterior, or even a more cement like finish if you have the proper cement / stucco materials.

These structures are more for those people who plan on staying in a particular area for a longer period of time and need a more permanent type of structure.
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Old 06-02-2010, 08:18 PM
adobewalls adobewalls is offline
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What can I say? A great subject.
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Old 06-19-2010, 03:09 PM
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Thank you for the great post! I have seen some soil up here that is not quite as red as yours but I'm going to check it out. We have an area that was mined with hydraulic cannons in the old days and it is very hard packed maybe it will work for adobe blocks.

Red
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Old 07-23-2010, 12:42 AM
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excellent guide, i must say that given the correct situation a very nice structure could be made with basically one's labor. thanks for the write up and the excellent idea.
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Old 07-23-2010, 01:42 AM
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Very informative and well put together article.
This information will be very helpful when I locate the land to build my homestead on. Thank You!
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Old 07-23-2010, 10:07 PM
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thanks for taking the time to create this pic thread =D
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Old 07-24-2010, 12:01 AM
nonmalum nonmalum is offline
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Nice pics of your setup.

What ratio did you use for your brick mix?
What kind of frame did you use and how did you construct it? Those look like nailed/screwed plywood forms to me.
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Old 07-27-2010, 09:43 AM
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Von Helman Von Helman is offline
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Originally Posted by nonmalum View Post
Nice pics of your setup.

What ratio did you use for your brick mix?
What kind of frame did you use and how did you construct it? Those look like nailed/screwed plywood forms to me.


Thank you, however I simply posted the article, I did not actually build the small structure after the blocks were finished, it was a friend of mine who did all the work and I simply accompanied him.

The frame is simple wood that is nailed (or screwed) and the key is to make a frame then use that same frame for the entire project so the blocks have uniformity. Frame sizes can vary depending on how large you want the blocks which is a personal preference but this size seems to be easier to handle because if you make the sod blocks too large they become very heavy.

As for the ratio of mix it’s more of a “feel” to it almost like making pancakes, you know when the batter is properly mixed, it’s just a “feel” you get when working with it through practice.
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Old 07-29-2010, 04:31 PM
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Von, thanks for a great thread. what you have described is a form of adobe. My Kansas, Mo, and Nebraska ancestors all lived in soddies... the photo of the old time house looks like instinctual/ ancestral home to me! The bricks used in the old photo are plugs of sod laid grass side down one on top of another.
this is how we do it where earth is rich and sod grows deep.

http://prairiebluestem.blogspot.com/...struction.html

http://www.nebraskastudies.org/0500/...0501_0108.html

http://digital.library.okstate.edu/e...s/S/SO002.html

Now I have to go through all the old family pix and see if I have photos of any of the old soddies... this is the most logical shelter for my part of the country (prairie) dirt and grass are what we have most of!

Last edited by methemom; 07-29-2010 at 04:42 PM.. Reason: add links
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Old 07-29-2010, 09:55 PM
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Originally Posted by methemom View Post
Von, thanks for a great thread. what you have described is a form of adobe. My Kansas, Mo, and Nebraska ancestors all lived in soddies... the photo of the old time house looks like instinctual/ ancestral home to me! The bricks used in the old photo are plugs of sod laid grass side down one on top of another.
this is how we do it where earth is rich and sod grows deep.

http://prairiebluestem.blogspot.com/...struction.html

http://www.nebraskastudies.org/0500/...0501_0108.html

http://digital.library.okstate.edu/e...s/S/SO002.html

Now I have to go through all the old family pix and see if I have photos of any of the old soddies... this is the most logical shelter for my part of the country (prairie) dirt and grass are what we have most of!

Yes “dugouts’ were common back in the 1800’s when the west was being settled. I think they really are a good alternative to a home / structure, especially in such places as you mention. Even regular homes were built out of sod and some are still around.

I had a few old photos of sod homes in our family album but didn’t take the time to scan and post them.
Thanks for the links!
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Old 01-08-2011, 10:11 PM
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... ...
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Old 03-27-2011, 11:25 PM
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excellent post i wonder if you have seen any of the earthbag shelters that you can find by looking up khalili or http://calearth.org/images/pdfs/Khal...cy-shelter.pdf these can be built up to 10 meters in diameter.
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Old 03-28-2011, 06:49 PM
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dumb question of the day.

Why is the manure needed?
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Old 03-29-2011, 12:01 PM
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Originally Posted by passin thru View Post
dumb question of the day.

Why is the manure needed?
Because it just wouldn't smell right without it!
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Old 03-29-2011, 12:20 PM
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Always a smarta$$ in the group......ROTFLMAO
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Old 03-30-2011, 04:19 PM
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Great tutorial...I have one question....you may have said and I missed it.how deep is the footer?.....Thanks....Kennyn
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Old 03-30-2011, 09:24 PM
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Von Helman Von Helman is offline
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Great tutorial...I have one question....you may have said and I missed it.how deep is the footer?.....Thanks....Kennyn
The footer is as wide as the blocks are and usually about one to one and half feet deep depending on how high the walls are going to be. The footers are also constructed out of rock and not cement if you noticed that and there is an art to packing and setting the rocks
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Old 03-30-2011, 09:40 PM
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Von Helman Von Helman is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by passin thru View Post
dumb question of the day.

Why is the manure needed?
It has something to do with the enzymes and other stuff that is in the animal manure that acts like a bonding agent and helps harden the mud together to the straw,

or so that's what I have always been told.

from wiki

Quote:
Straw is useful in binding the brick together and allowing the brick to dry evenly. Dung offers the same advantage and is also added to repel insects
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adobe
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